Proceeds from the $180 million sale will be used to finance Tribune’s stock repurchase plan.
Tribune Co. today announced the sale of WATL Atlanta (channel 36, WB) to Gannett Co. for $180 million, subject to FCC approval.
“This reflects an important aspect of the stock repurchase strategy that we communicated last week,” said Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune chairman/CEO. “Our goal is to generate additional shareholder value through improved operating performance, asset sales and the disciplined repayment of debt over the next several years. The sale of WATL further demonstrates our commitment to delivering value for shareholders.”
On May 30, Tribune announced it will acquire up to 75 million shares of the company’s common stock, sell at least $500 million in assets, and reduce operating expenses by $200 million over the next two years.
“As an upcoming affiliate of My Network TV, WATL has a great future under the ownership of a broadcasting leader like Gannett,” said John Reardon, Tribune Broadcasting president. “Steve Carver and the entire team at WATL have built a strong station and we couldn’t be more appreciative and proud of their dedication and professionalism.”
Tribune acquired a minority stake in WATL in 1995 and obtained full ownership of the station in 2000 as part of its acquisition of Qwest Broadcasting. WATL, currently a WB affiliate, will join Fox Television’s MNT when the network launches on Sept. 5.